The United Kingdom’s referendum on continued membership in the European Union is set for June 23. Prime Minister Cameron seeks a yes vote and invited President Obama to express his views in support of Britain’s continued membership.
Has President Obama ever persuaded anybody of anything? I don’t think so. His performance standing next to Cameron on Friday was classic Obama. It was patronizing. It was threatening. It was offensive. It was disingenuous; it was extremely disingenuous. In “Of Churchill and chumps,” I posted the video. Reasoned argument just isn’t his bag.
Charles Moore is the prominent British journalist and biographer of Margaret Thatcher. His Telegraph column responding to Obama captures some of the contradictions:
[I]t is reassuring to know that he is a friend of this country. One of his first acts as president was to remove the bust of Winston Churchill from the Oval Office, so some of us formed the view that he thought the Anglo-American relationship was no longer all that special. Seven years later, we are being proved wrong.
It turns out Mr Obama now thinks it is so special that it authorises him to take part in our electoral process.
Oddly enough, this has never happened so publicly before. True, everyone knew that Ronald Reagan wanted Margaret Thatcher to win the general elections of 1983 and 1987, but he kept his help private and did not advise the British how to vote.
Never in our democratic history can the leader of a foreign power have climbed so clearly on to our hustings to tell all our citizens what one side – 10 Downing Street – wanted.
Mr Obama’s most famous electoral message was “Yes, we can”. His electoral message to the British people is “No, you can’t”.
If we want influence, security, free trade, democracy and the rule of law, we can get these things only by staying in the European Union, he informs us. We cannot contemplate living – as his own country so proudly does – as a wholly independent state. If we do, we “go to the back of the queue” in trade, he told the press conference last night.
The president has spent most of his time in office neglecting old allies and seeking new ones, being chummier with Iran than Israel and with Castro than Cameron.
He belatedly praises the network of alliances and programmes – the Marshall Plan, Bretton Woods, Nato, the United Nations Security Council – which helped create the post-war order, but what he has actually done is to tiptoe away from Nato commitments, hoping that the EU will take up the slack.
The question one needs to ask today, with some urgency, is whether that order is still working, and how, exactly, the European Union is assisting it.
Moore is just getting warmed up. The whole thing here makes the kind of argument that President Obama himself passed on.